Democrats to Decide on Zeldin Challenger Tuesday
Registered Democrats in the First Congressional District will go to polling stations on Tuesday to choose a candidate to face Representative Lee Zeldin in the Nov. 6 general election. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday.
Kate Browning, Elaine DiMasi, Perry Gershon, David Pechefsky, and Vivian Viloria-Fisher are vying for the nomination to challenge Mr. Zeldin, a Republican who is seeking a third term.
Reflecting national trends, three of the five Democratic candidates are women, and for two of them, this campaign is their first. Ms. Browning, a former school bus driver, and Ms. Viloria-Fisher, a former teacher, both served multiple terms on the Suffolk County Legislature. Ms. DiMasi spent 21 years as a physicist and project manager at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Mr. Gershon’s career includes 25 years in commercial real estate lending.
Mr. Pechefsky made an unsuccessful bid for New York City Council in 2009, running on the Green Party ticket. He was a longtime staffer for the City Council, and has worked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Mayor’s Office of Appointments. He is on leave from his position as a senior adviser to Generation Citizen, a nonprofit that trains college students to provide civic education to middle and high school students.
While the campaigns have declined to share internal polling data, Mr. Gershon, who lives in East Hampton, told supporters at a private event on June 9 that the race is between himself and Ms. Browning, a former Suffolk County legislator. The others, he said, were far behind.
“I’m proud of the positive campaign we’ve run on the important issues facing our community and why I believe I am the most qualified candidate to beat Lee Zeldin and stand up to Donald Trump’s divisive agenda,” Ms. Browning said in a statement sent by email on Tuesday. “I’ve run a grassroots campaign fueled by individuals, unions, and local elected officials like [Assemblyman] Fred Thiele and [Legislator] Bridget Fleming and we’re excited to move to the next stage of the campaign.”
“This is an exciting election,” Ms. DiMasi said in an email on Monday, “and we are ready for the outcome, thanks to over 500 supporters and volunteers who have reached out to thousands of voters. Every voter’s voice matters, and I am the only candidate, a woman and professional scientist, with a plan and the ability to propel Long Island’s economy into a sustainable and fruitful future.”
The Cook Political Report, an independent, nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes elections, campaigns, and political trends, puts the First Congressional District race in its “Likely Republican” column. But Democrats have scored wins in several special elections since Donald Trump was elected president, including in what were thought to be solid Republican districts and states. The 2016 election has galvanized the Democratic Party and its supporters.
Mr. Zeldin is a steadfast supporter of the president, who is under investigation by an independent counsel for alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Most recently, the president is under fire for his administration’s practice of separating the children of undocumented immigrants from their parents when apprehended at the southern border.
Last Thursday, groups including Progressive East End Reformers and People Power Patchogue sponsored a rally outside of Mr. Zeldin’s office in Patchogue. The “Keep Families Together” rally, according to organizers, was an effort to persuade Mr. Zeldin to speak out against the policy. PEER held another rally outside Mr. Zeldin’s office on Sunday. A “rally united for immigrant women and children” was to take place yesterday, again at Mr. Zeldin’s Patchogue office.